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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 21 August, 2014

Applicants for Dublin Fire Brigade were asked if they’re gay or straight

The Public Appointments Service says it’s a standard procedure, and helps them monitor equality across the public service.

Image: Fireman Suit via Shutterstock

HUNDREDS OF APPLICANTS for 28 controller positions at Dublin Fire Brigade were asked a range of questions on their race and sexual orientation as part of the recruitment process.

The Public Appointments Service was tasked with carrying out a range of psychometric tests for applicants, which they completed online ahead of the closing date for the jobs earlier this month.

A questionnaire included with the tests asked whether candidates were gay or straight, along with other questions about their racial background, family status and other details.

Head of Corporate Services at the Public Appointments Service Padraig Love explained that the questions are asked as part of an ongoing equality monitoring process being carried out by the body.

“We wouldn’t normally be involved in recruiting for the Fire Brigade so maybe that’s why this question is coming up,” he told TheJournal.ie.

Love said that applicants are given the option of whether or not to complete the questions, and said that the details aren’t being passed on to Dublin City Council, who will make the final decision on who to hire.

“We have a dedicated team of four occupational psychologists here. The details go to them.

“They hold on to them for a set period of time as set out by data protection legislation. The statistics are kept into the future, but the names aren’t.”

“We are very advanced in terms of best practice, and operate under licence from the Commission for Public Service Appointments.

Love said that the stats were kept so that officials could monitor the proportion of any given group within the workforce of a state organisation.

“If you have a recruitment process whereby at the outset half of the applicants are women, for example, you would expect that to be reflected at the midway point, and at the end of the process.

Similarly if five per cent, say, were gay you would expect that to be reflected.”

Groups are monitored across nine categories set out by the Employment Equality Act of 1998, including gender, family  status, sexual orientation, religion and membership of the traveller  community.

image

The Public Appointments Service Questionnaire

“We wouldn’t normally be involved in a process like this, but the Council asked us to and we have the capacity to help,” Love said.

He said that the psychometric tests were given so that the best candidates could be identified without the need for a lengthy initial interview process. Candidates were informed in writing that the information was being given anonymously were told why the questions were being asked.

Davin Roche, Director of Workplace Diversity at gay rights group GLEN, said that such processes could be useful if done properly, in terms of ensuring equal opportunities.

“What it does is it allows a company to see whether it’s recruiting and representing all of the talent that exists across all of the nine categories.

There is a strong business case that organisations should reflect the communities that they serve. Talent comes in all shapes and sizes.

The second stage of the recruitment process for the positions is now under way; candidates who made it through the first round will be called for interviews.

It’s planned that after three years working as controllers for the Fire Brigade, the candidates will then have the option of going directly into a process of training to become firefighters and paramedics.

Once the initial 28 staff members are recruited, other candidates’ names will be added to a panel from which more controllers could be hired over the next few years.

Read: Want to work in the civil service? >

More: Garda recruitment to start (and they’re already expecting lots of applications) >

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